Sunday, July 25, 2010

He lied, and then called it journalism

If a house is burned to the ground, you can cry about the firefighters not saving the house or criticize the building material for not being fire retardant – but mostly you blame the person who started the fire. Last week, a government worker named Shirley Sherrod was fired after a heavily edited video clip of her NAACP speech was used to paint her as a racist. In one nanosecond, her reputation was burned down to the ground, causing her to lose her job almost instantly.

Later, when the whole speech was revealed, it proved the clip making the rounds on the various ‘news’ channels was way out of context. Once the truth was learned, the media booed her bosses for firing her, blasted the NAACP for calling her a racist; and even the president was chided for not checking into the story before acting (although the media is just as guilty of the same). But what about the guy who started the fire? As of today, he is still getting away with it. Andrew Breitbart is the far-right wingnut blogger who posted an extremely edited video of Sherrod. He put it on one of his five Web sites. Breitbart, a former Matt Drudge trainee, onetime E Entertainment employee, and the guy who called Senator Edward Kennedy "a special pile of human excrement" just hours after Kennedy’s death, published the edited clip of Shirley Sherrod as ‘evidence’ of reverse racism by the NAACP. He claimed the audience applauded her so-called reverse racism.

The complete, unedited video shows no such thing.

Breitbart lit that fire on purpose – to try to paint the NAACP as a racist organization. He probably knew that what he was doing could ruin Sherrod’s career and her personal life. As Sherrod would later tell CNN, "He knew exactly what would happen." The story began with Breitbart. He is where the blame lies and where the punishment should be doled out. But how do you punish a lying blogger like Breitbart who can easily slither back into his dark hole of pseudo journalism. He answers to no one except his far-right wingnut readers who lap up everything he, and others like him, posts.

Breitbart boasted about his ‘journalistic’ skills to the media last week, "I am public enemy No. 1 or 2 to the Democratic Party ... based upon the successes my ‘journalism’ has had."

What journalism? It's not journalism if you use edited, spliced material to paint a picture of an incident that is totally incorrect. It is not journalism if you use any means, including lying and manipulating the evidence, to obtain your desired end.

Some people have called this incident a referendum on racism. But it was also a referendum on editing, a referendum on Internet blogging, a referendum on our insatiable desire for explosive news, and our refusal to see the full picture. Anyone who watches the whole tape of Sherrod's speech sees an honest woman who tells of helping a nearly bankrupt white farmer 24 years ago that made her question her own prejudices. In the video, she goes on to say such things as: "Working with him made me see that it's really about those who have versus those who don't have ... and they could be black; they could be white; they could be Hispanic…. God helped me see that it's not just about black people…. I've come to realize that we have to work together…. We have to overcome the divisions that we have."

Yet, Breitbart's web site contains pieces like "If Anyone Needs to Apologize, It's Shirley Sherrod." Breitbart actually said the following of Sherrod: "This person has not gotten past black versus white." Wrong. It is Breitbart that cannot get past black versus white – and past his hate for any group in this country who does not think like he does. Hate like Breitbart’s makes the political world spin, especially the blogosphere.

Some right wingers actually claimed Breitbart was a "victim" of whomever gave him this video. But you cannot blame others if what you write or put on your blog turns up to be bogus. Instead of taking responsibility for what he put out into the blogosphere, he blames everyone else – the liberals, President Barack Obama, the NAACP, even Sherrod herself, a woman who was nothing more than his pawn.

"I believe that I am held to a higher standard," Breitbart told Politico. "If this video showed a picture of a Caucasian talking in the exact same way but talking about a black person with an audience affirming and clapping that behavior, the reporter would be getting a Pulitzer Prize right now."

Uh… No, he wouldn't. Showing a heavily edited video is not "reporting." Breitbart, and those far-right wingers like him (Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Fox ‘News’ come to mind) are not held to any standard by anyone.

That, my dear readers, is what is wrong with this whole situation. Breitbart lied, and then called it journalism.